It should not matter whether you love guns, hate guns, whether you practice open carry or are permitted for concealed carry, whether you are conservative, liberal or consider yourself a watchdog for the Second Amendment.
Beyond all of these diverse interests there is a place to discuss the practical impact of our right to bear arms and the rest of the world’s right to public safety.
Though we never really know who is concealing a weapon in Idaho, or whether they are doing so legally, the passage of SB 1389 in the Idaho Legislature and a signature from Gov. Butch Otter seem likely to increase the number of instances when we will be unaware we are in the company of armed people.
The way it works today is relatively straightforward and common sense. If you want to carry a gun in public, it has to be in plain sight for all to see. If you want to keep that fact a secret, you have to get a straightforward permit that requires a criminal background check. There are all kinds of legitimate reasons — professional demand, personal safety — for wanting to do that. There also are a lot of illegitimate reasons for concealing a weapon. That’s why the system has evolved the way it has.
SB 1389 — which passed in the Senate Wednesday and now heads for the House — does away with the permit system, saying that almost anyone of age can carry a concealed weapon and you don’t need a permit.
Do we really want to remove the century-old permit requirement in Idaho cities? What is the problem this legislation solves, other than the “disconnect” Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, referenced in his statements Monday during the bill’s hearing before the Senate State Affairs Committee?
True, carrying a concealed weapon without a permit is allowed outside Idaho cities. Why do we need to extend that to our municipalities? I get the fact that people “carrying” can encounter different “zones” throughout a day as they travel. But I am less worried about their convenience than the question visitors and unarmed citizens might be asking themselves: Is that person armed, trained and responsible? Do I need to worry?
Carrying a loaded weapon is serious business. I’ve been around enough law enforcement people who have had to draw and fire their weapons in the line of duty that I have a deep respect for how profound, risky and life-altering that experience can be.
I am aware that armed citizens have saved the lives of other citizens. I know proponents of permitless carry cite other states that have gone this route and not encountered any worst-case scenarios. But I don’t think anybody is measuring the community uneasiness that comes with such a decision. Or how that plays out when business or convention decision-makers have to make a call between selecting a community that allows anyone to secret a weapon upon their body and one that does not.
Though a number of law enforcement agencies and organizations have come out in favor of the bill, I am more persuaded by the reticence of the police chiefs in Boise, Garden City and Meridian —who think SB1389 needs to go back into the garage for some work. These officers, sworn to protect us, contend that extending permitless concealed carry to cities will not make us any safer and will, in fact, inhibit their ability to protect us.
In a recent Guest Opinion they wrote: “Without the requirement to possess a concealed weapons license, law enforcement will lack a lawful means of preventing individuals prohibited from lawfully possessing firearms (i.e. convicted felons, prohibited possessors or psychologically impaired). Additionally SB1389 does not require individuals carrying a concealed weapon to notify law enforcement of the concealed weapon during a police contact. As a result of these safety concerns we oppose this legislation as currently written.”
This sounds like more than a “disconnect” to me. This sounds like a choice between public safety and an unnecessary expansion of someone’s rights — at the expense of somebody else’s peace of mind. I think our lawmakers should consider the right to bear arms has its limits in our society.
I prefer knowing, for instance, that folks (outside of security details) are not armed in courtrooms and on airplanes. I would be happier knowing armed Idahoans I encounter around town have a permit to conceal, and that law enforcement has options to deal with those who don’t play by the rules.